Congress Agrees on Aid to Israel, Not on Bundling it With Aid to Ukraine, Taiwan
A US bill to provide $17.6 billion in aid to Israel stalled in the House due to disagreements on bundling it with aid for Ukraine and Taiwan. Amid election year politics, debates focus on whether to package or separate the aid, facing potential presidential veto and bipartisan challenges.
By Debbie Mohnblatt/The Media Line
A proposal to increase military aid and provide $17.6 billion to Israel suffered a setback in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday. The failure to reach the needed two-thirds majority for the bill ruined House Speaker Mike Johnson’s attempt to deliberate on the aid for Israel separately from other international aid commitments such as the one to Ukraine and Taiwan. However, experts explain that the issue is not whether to provide Israel with military aid but whether to do so as part of a package or independently, falling rather into internal politics.
Senior Vice President Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council told The Media Line that this issue brings to his mind the old saying that says, “All politics are local.”
“The emergency aid to Israel has become bound up in debates on Capitol Hill, and between Congress and the White House, on other issues, like continued assistance to Ukraine and a major fight over immigration,” he added, explaining that the result is sort of a paralysis that has, at least so far, stymied the sort of prompt support that Israel needs.
The vote for the bill resulted in 250 in favor and 180 against. Among those who voted against it, there are 166 Democrats and 14 Republicans failing to reach the needed two-thirds majority.
Expert on US-Israel relations, Prof. Eytan Gilboa, founding head of both the School of Communication and the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University, explained that if the Senate and the House disagree about an issue, they have a conference with representatives from each branch of Congress, and then they hammer out a compromise.
He told The Media Line that the Senate voted on a proposal for a package aid deal following the wishes of President Joe Biden. This package included aid to Ukraine and Israel and additional funds for Taiwan, among other issues.
“But the house separated Israel from the other issues because Republicans have reservations about aid to Ukraine and did not want, in an election year, to give Biden an advantage,” he said.
Gilboa attributed Congress’s failure to approve Biden’s initial package deal to former President Donald Trump’s people in the house who opted for separating Israel. “That decision seems that it is going to be stuck again because Biden the other day also said that if they separate the issues, he is going to veto it,” he said, explaining that when with a presidential veto, then there is a need for a two-thirds majority in Congress to overcome that veto and neither side has a majority for two-thirds.
“The whole thing is going to get stuck, and the more we advance in the elections, the more difficult it becomes because Biden insists on his position, and the Republicans are insisting on their position too,” Gilboa added.
Berman, however, believes that the aid package to Israel will pass. He explained that “Supporters in Congress understand how critical it is – for Israel’s current fight against Hamas, but even more so as preparation for what many see as an inevitable northern front.”
He stressed that it is important to remember that the center of gravity in the special relationship between the US and Israel has never been the White House. It has always been Congress, and support there remains very strong. “That makes me optimistic that the package will indeed pass, and sooner rather than later,” he continued.
While the military aid package is critical for Israel, Gilboa believes that until the matter is settled, Israel will find a way to stay afloat.
He explained that the money from the aid package goes to manufacturers of weapons that sit in the United States. “So weapons are manufactured in several states of the United States. And this is an important issue for Congress: Senators and Representatives in the House, as they come from states. And I’m sure that in the States, the industry is applying pressure on them to the compromise,” he said, adding that this is especially true since all members of the House are up for election.
“This issue has to be resolved one way or another. There is no way that Israel would not get that funds at all,” he said.
Despite the hardship of passing the bill, Gilboa said that there is much consensus in Congress about providing funding to Israel, while funding to Ukraine is controversial. That is why he believes there will be some temporary measures to keep the military aid until the bill passes. This could include credit deals with the military equipment manufacturers.
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